Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and progenitor of Titusonenine, has posted what he would say to the Primates in Tanzania if he were there. You can read it on T19 or over at Stand Firm. The ‘comments’ are not working properly at T19, so Kendall suggests going over to Stand Firm.
There are two points with which I must disagree with Kendall, at least as I interpret his intentions within his essay. These two points are not about theology or moral opinion regarding homosexuality or Scriptural interpretation, but about what we are doing. (First of all, I want to concede that Kendall’s mental acuity is far above mine, and he is far more â€œin the knowâ€ than I am.)
1. He attempts to establish that the official theological teaching and position of the Anglican Communion beyond the Creeds and the First Four Ecumenical Councils resides in the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. He implies, and believes I think, that the resolutions passed at Lambeth conferences establish the official teaching of the Anglican Communion.
2. He attempts to establish that all provinces, really all Anglican ecclesiastical entities, are bound to obey the opinions of the bishops reflected by majority vote in the final Lambeth resolutions. The implication is that the bishops are now bound to uphold and enforce those resolutions despite their own personal positions.
My response is that it is unAnglican to view Lambeth as a body that establishes the official teaching of the Communion. Lambeth has never been a Magisterium, as in the Roman Church. In addition, according to my understanding it has never been the expectation that all resolutions of Lambeth are â€œgospelâ€ and must be obeyed by all Anglicans.
Finally, if the â€œreassertersâ€ are rebelling against the ecclesial structures of TEC and against majority votes of TECâ€™s General Conventions made by bishops, clergy, and laity in order to protect a minority of â€œtruly faithfulâ€ against abuse by the majority, then why is it wrong for TEC or the ACofC to rebel against Lambeth resolutions in order to protect the minority of gay people against abuse by the majority across the Communion, particularly in places like Nigeria? If rebellion is the rule of the day, then the U.S. and Canadian churches (as well as many other provinces) â€œrebellionâ€ against Lambeth should be permitted for the sake of consistency. If â€œtruthâ€ is established by a majority vote (like some suggest of bishops at Lambeth), then why is â€œtruthâ€ not established by a majority vote within TECâ€™s General Conventions â€“ the governing body that sets policy and doctrine for TEC? (â€œtruthâ€ with a little â€œtâ€, not â€œTruthâ€)
Well, there is such a thing as a “tyranny of the majority,” and I’ve seen it expressed against conservatives in TEC and now I’m seeing it expressed against TEC and ACoC by the majority within the Communion. Do we really want these kinds of things settled by a majority vote? There is a reason why we do not live in a pure democracy in the U.S.!
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Carey states:
“And that is the true purpose of Lambeth Conference. It represents a pause, a staging post, where we are refreshed in spirit (and body and mind too, I hope) for the next stage of our journey. It marks a stage in the life of our Communion. And it marks a stage in our own personal journeys. So, what are the things that will you take out into the next stage of your own journey, your Diocese’s journey and your Province’s journey?
I hope you will take a keen awareness that you are not alone. You belong to a great family of God, and here you have come face to face with brothers and sisters from all over the world as we have spoken, prayed, eaten and worshipped together in the intimacy of that family.”
(from Carey’s final sermon at the last Lambeth)
Martin Smith SSJE, in a talk reporting on the last Lambeth Conference given to the monastery at Cambridge:
” Most of you know that the Lambeth Conferences are gatherings of the bishops of the Anglican Communion summoned by the Archbishop of Canterbury every ten years since the 1860s. The name derives from Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop’s London residence, where they used to meet. The Conferences now take place in Canterbury. The purpose of the Conferences is for consultation. The bishops cannot legislate for the Anglican Communion or override the autonomy of the provinces. Any teaching or conclusions passed by the assembly has only an advisory character. The purpose of the Conferences has been to provide a means for periodic stocktaking of the evolving condition of world-wide Anglicanism. The reports that have been issued over the years have seldom had any earthshaking impact but they have supplied every decade current models of Anglican theological reflection so that Anglicans and Christians of other traditions can get a handle on our style of Christian witness.
“I was present not only as support for Bishop Tom Shaw SSJE, as the head of his monastic household, but as a member of the team of chaplains who were available to the conference pastorally and to help practically with the liturgies.”
Lambeth is a time when the Bishops of the Communion gather for fellowship and to work out among themselves issues and concerns realized around the Communion. They do express their common mind, established by majority vote in a democratic fashion. There are not unanimous opinions/votes held by and agreed to by all bishops.
It is unAnglican to demand that Lambeth is a body given authority to establish the official teaching of the Communion. Lambeth is not an Anglican Magisterium, or at least it has never been. There are those who want to make it so. The only reason the attempt to establish Lambeth to be such an authority is because of convenience – they agree with Lambeth 1.10 (or at least the first part of it). If the vote had been different or if a couple of the sections were missing, they would not be appealing to Lambeth as an authority. And, do not be mistaken, if in the future the tide turns and by majority vote Lambeth begins to vote against them, they will repudiate Lambeth!
At this point and for the purposes of my response to Kendall, this has nothing to do with whether the individual points in Lambeth 1.10 are agreed to or not, my response is about what we are attempting to make the Communion to be and what it has always been. They are two different things.
Finally, as I am understanding Kendall, he is trying to establish that all Anglican ecclesiastical bodies are required to obey Lambeth resolutions. Again, this has never been the case. Lambeth may well express the “mind of the Communion,” but really it expressed the minds of the bishops assembled. Now, yes, we are a Catholic church and the bishops are the points of unity, but we are a Reformed Catholic church, and the responsibility of determining what the Communion is and what it believes and does has never rested with the Bishops only, particularly with the Primates. Individual provinces may have an authority structure that rests all decisions with the bishops, and that is their right as Anglicans, but Communion wide it has never been.
Again, I think those who are demanding ejection from the Communion of the American and Canadian churches if they don’t repudiate what they have done are attempting to establish the decisions of primates and bishops as the final authority out of convenience – the numbers are on their side. If the votes go a different way in Tanzania or subsequence international meetings, they will not abide by those decisions. Their convictions are true, and I can respect them! As an Anglican, however, I cannot accept their attempt to force their perspective upon everyone else and punish those who offer resistance.
What it really does come down to, in my opinion, is a rebellion against those who have decided that the Tradition needs to rethink the issue of homosexuality. They are striving mightily to maintain the Tradition as it is â€“ as what they believe is Godâ€™s will.
Some places have gone too far too quickly in pushing the issue or acting prematurely in a typically unilateral and arrogant American way, in my opinion. But, the reaction of those who are opposed to all same-sex relationships, period, are going far to far in their attempts to make the Anglican Communion into something that it has never been. The purpose is to enforce their particular theological perspective(s) and Scriptural interpretation(s), particularly concerning the homosexual issue.